Is there a way to expand aliases inline in bash?

$bash>alias ll='ls -l '
$bash>ls -l 

4 Answers 4


You can press Ctrl-Alt-e to perform the readline function shell-expand-line which will do alias, history and word expansions. Note that on some keyboards Meta is not Alt. You might need to press Esc then Ctrl-e

The functions alias-expand-line and history-and-alias-expand-line are not bound by default, but you can bind them by adding lines similar to the following to your ~/.inputrc file.

"\e\C-l": alias-expand-line

which would make Ctrl-Alt-l (lower case "ell") perform only alias expansion.

  • 2
    @asdfg: If you do, it will break other completions. It might work (untested) to create the map as shown above and then add this additional map to replace the existing one for Tab: "\C-i": "\e\C-l\e\e" which creates a macro that performs both alias-expand-line and complete. It depends on the binding from my answer above and that the default binding for Esc-Esc remains in place. You would still be able to do Esc-Esc if you wanted to do default completion. Feb 19, 2011 at 16:03
  • 7
    Indeed, ESC C-e works for Bash, but C-x a works for Zsh. Also tested on OS X.
    – Blaz
    Oct 5, 2015 at 19:40
  • 1
    @WeijunZhou: That depends on your window manager and any custom settings you have. For Gnome, for example, lock screen is Super+L. Nov 24, 2018 at 15:34
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    It's worth adding this works only if the alias is the first part of your line, and won't work for alias in the middle of the command, e.g. it works for k get po but not for watch k get po where alias k=kubectl.
    – Meitham
    May 10, 2020 at 8:29
  • 1
    @Meitham: zsh supports suffix and "global" (meaning replaced anywhere on the line) aliases as well (with alias -s and alias -g respectively), but bash does not do those. zsh.sourceforge.net/Intro/intro_8.html Jun 26, 2020 at 9:32

For people having zsh & Oh My ZSH installed looking for a simple solution, globalias might be your friend

Expands all glob expressions, subcommands and aliases (including global).

# .zsrc:
alias S="sudo systemctl"

$ S<space>
# expands to:
$ sudo systemctl

to install just add "globalias" to you .zshrc plugin list

plugins=(... globalias)

Then just press SPACE to trigger the expansion of a command you've written.

If you only want to insert a space without expanding the command line, press CTRL+SPACE

  • 1
    are you using oh-my-zsh?
    – sites
    Feb 7, 2020 at 22:15
  • That's right 👍Should've probably mentioned it 🤭
    – Can Rau
    Feb 8, 2020 at 23:04
  • Haha I totally forgot about ctrl-space 😅
    – Can Rau
    Mar 3, 2020 at 18:19
  • By the way MichaelAquilina/zsh-you-should-use is the opposite. They also work together 🤯😂
    – Can Rau
    Mar 3, 2020 at 18:20
  • 1
    @CanRau Yes, it is. I just added a comment if someone wanted to use it with Zplug.
    – nvd
    Dec 2, 2021 at 22:59

This does not work. But I'm guessing/hoping something like this can be done to do what you want to do. You would have to use your own completion script. This is how you make one:

     COMPREPLY=(ls -l)
     #The next line does not work. I just hope there were a way to replace that word
     COMP_WORDS[COMP_CWORD-1]="ls -l"
complete -F _ll ll

Now source the full bash_completion file(http://caliban.org/bash) and put the above mentioned script in a file inside bash_completion.d directory that the script you get from the url references. Let me know if it doesn't work.



This actually might be a much simpler way to do what you're trying to (bashversion >= 4.2.29):

shopt -s direxpand
shopt -s expand_aliases

shopt's man page: https://www.gnu.org/software/bash/manual/html_node/The-Shopt-Builtin.html

  • 11
    This is wrong. Shell options "direxpand" and "expand_aliases" do not help expand the aliases inline like the question specifies. I do not know from which hat "direxpand" was taken...? By default, "expand_aliases" is already set. If you unset it, the result is to basically disable aliases from working (they are not expanded before interpretation of the command line). E.g. given an alias alias ll='ls -l the shell would interpret 'll' as command/function 'll' which likely does not exist.
    – FooF
    Sep 29, 2017 at 8:38
  • @FooF: yeah, that option does something else: "Aliases are not expanded when the shell is not interactive, unless the expand_aliases shell option is set using shopt." gnu.org/software/bash/manual/html_node/Aliases.html#Aliases Jun 26, 2020 at 9:22

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